The Dave Brubeck Quartet at Warner Theatre

Dana and I left our little Duke yesterday for a few hours with his grandmother so we could head into D.C. to see the Dave Brubeck Quartet performed at Warner Theatre in concluding the Washington Performance Art Society’s 2008/2009 jazz season. It could be our last chance to see one of the jazz living legends. At 89, Brubeck could barely walk by himself, yet his playing showed no sign of aging.

He could still swing hard on Duke Ellington’s “Let’s Take the ‘A’ Train” even when he just played staccato chords on his right hand. With Bobby Militello (alto saxophone and flute), Michael Moore (bass) and Randy Jones (drums), Brubeck took Fred Waring’s “Sleep, Sleep, Sleep” into another direction like he had promised not to put us to sleep. With Brubeck’s virtuosity in both jazz and classical, he brought the two worlds closer through his brother Howard’s “Dialogues for Jazz Combo and Orchestra.” His classical piano solos were some of the most hypnotic moments of the show.

While the crowd was pleased as soon as Brubeck struck the “Take Five” chords and saluted with standing ovation at the end, I was left a bit disappointed. It’s unfair to compare Bobby Militello to Paul Desmond, but Militello’s playing was not as fluid as Desmond’s. The band completely dropped out when Jones soloed. Brubeck didn’t do his signature obstinato behind him either. Jones’s improvisation was a long and energy and I was anticipating in hearing Brubeck and Moore to follow up, but the band came back and took the tune out instead.

As we were leaving, I overheard a man telling a woman that if he were a musician, he would be glad if he could play like Brubeck, even in his 50’s. I am sure many musicians wish they could play a fraction like Brubeck, even in their 30’s.

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